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When I was 22, my father asked me why I was a lesbian, and I replied, "Because I've never met a man who wasn't a man." At the time it seemed like the truest answer I could give. And it still does. But what does this seeming tautology really mean, if anything? It means, I suppose, that, sexually speaking, I'm an essentialist: I think men and women are essentially and irreparably different. Incommensurable. Men, in all their various shapes, sizes, and temperaments, are still men. And women, at bottom, are women. Of course, whether or not I'm right about this is largely irrelevant. It's what I think, what I believe. This belief, whether I believe it for hereditary or environmental reasons, defines my sexual orientation. It determines with whom I will have enjoyable sex, with whom I will fall romantically in love, and with whom I will mate for life (if I ever do). That's it. It does not, however, define my human orientation. It will not determine with whom I will forge friendships, alliances, business partnerships, or extended familial or social bonds. In sum, I think men are men, and I don't love them for it, but I don't hate or eschew them for it either.

And I think, though some might deny it, that many gay men and lesbians don't feel the same way. They define their homosexuality in much the same way as I do mine, but they globalize this kind of sexual separatism. They often don't distinguish their orientation from their way of life; their sexual preference from their general, nonsexual likes and dislikes. So you end up with the gay person whose reverence for her own sex has blinded her entirely to the virtues of the opposite sex or has even translated into what you might call a deep-seated though largely subliminal dislike of half the human race. You might say you have the kind of gay woman who truly thinks all men are pigs and the kind of gay man who thinks women smell like rotting fish.

We've all heard these firings said in unmixed company. Most of us have even laughed about them and almost, if not quite, agreed with them. This, as Bruce Bawer wrote in his July 21 column for this magazine, is the "dirty little secret of the gay rights movement." And, I would add, of the respective gay and lesbian communities. Many gay women dislike men. Likewise, many gay men dislike women. It's a fact. Now, can we admit this to ourselves and each other, and if we can, what are we going to do about it?

But asking these questions in gay circles leads to some unpleasant bickering. The mere mention of the topic raises more hackles among queers than the name Jerry Falwell or, most recently, the name of the homobelligerent president of the Family Research Council, Gary Bauer. That alone should tell us we're on to something very real when we say that sexism among gays is a serious problem and one with potentially disastrous consequences. Though there is nothing inherently wrong with a homosexual orientation, there is something inherently wrong with a monosexual worldview: colossal denial, to say the very least. But if we as gays are ever to make a strong political case against homophobia, we must first root out bigotry in our own ranks. We decry sexual and gender-based exclusion in straight culture, yet we often make it the touchstone of our own. If in the debate over social justice we are to have a polemical leg to stand on, we'd better resolve this contradiction.

To do otherwise is to invalidate the founding principle of gay politics from the inside out and surrender the moral ground we've claimed.

Vincent is a staff writer for NY Press and has written for The New Republic. She is also coauthor of The Instant Intellectual: The Quick & Easy Guide to Sounding Smart & Cultured.
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Title Annotation:Last Word; gays and lesbians whose sexism against the opposite sex is immoral
Author:Vincent, Norah
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Sep 29, 1998
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